I believe that food means much more to the human race than mere nourishment. Granted, if it is scarce the drive to find food becomes primal. But beyond this primal survival need is the experience of food as a ceremonial center of our lives. Think about the memories you have of family and good times. These memories often revolve around food. And the food prepared outside of these celebrations rarely tastes as good. I recently wrote to my grandmother on her 90th birthday citing 90 favorite memories of our times together. Fully half of them involved food and the ceremony surrounding it. In my case it included picking, preparing, storing and serving different foods common to the South. I wonder what my 90 memories would have been if we only ate one food source and there was no ceremony.
I also often find that it is a common thread with someone no matter how many other differences there are between you. Celebrations with deserts or dishes that represent a special occasion are universal. It can even be the only common language between two people and an avenue to friendship. This past holiday season we were invited to eat dinner at a co-workers home. His parents in-law were visiting from China and were preparing a traditional dinner for all of our enjoyment. Although I spoke no Chinese and the in-laws spoke no English we were able to find comfort in each others company because of the meal, and the occasional translation. I think we understood each other well, not through translation but, through the sharing of food and all that that implies.
One of the most rewarding benefits of my company is that we have team mates from many places around the world. We have programs to help us be more understanding and appreciative of the diversity. But the one experience that always opens doors to understanding is a conversation about the food. What we miss from our childhood and foods that we share a craving for. This can instantly build a bridge to understanding and friendship. I wish that we could somehow translate this in to more peace and harmony in the world. Sadly though, with hungry populations in many areas we are not yet staisfying the primal needs much less breaking bread with our neighbors to build harmony.